Gavan Reilly: Evolution, not revolution, as O’Gorman tends the Greens

Meet the new boss, then… same as the old boss? Roderic O’Gorman might be 18 years younger then Eamon Ryan but, at his formal unveiling as party leader on Monday, the overall vision didn’t seem all that different. O’Gorman will not be reshuffling the Greens’ ministers, nor will he be pushing for changes to the Programme for Government or even an early election. His focus, he says, is on making sure pledges in the existing programme actually get delivered.

That will make for interesting discussion with Simon Harris, one suspects: as the election appears over the horizon and the time for actions whittles down, the Taoiseach’s biggest challenges are deciding which issues not to pursue. Helen McEntee’s suddenly contentious legislation against inciting hate crimes appears to be one such casualty. Good luck to O’Gorman trying to thaw that one out of the deep freeze.

But if O’Gorman is content to keep steady on within the Greens, then what is the purpose of changing leader? His own assessment is that the party must do a better job at outlining its responses to the problems of today, and not just of tomorrow. Nobody doubts the Greens’ ambitions in long-term environmentalism, but many (he thinks) don’t trust them to address shorter-term issues like running the health service. O’Gorman’s first publicly avowed goal is to do precisely that.

He might be better off taking the fight to the sorts of rural independents that made gains in last month’s council polls. Many in Leinster House drew attention to a viral clip from RTE’s Prime Time, shortly after Eamon Ryan’s departure was announced. Senator Roisin Garvey scored serious points on Michael Healy-Rae by accusing him of taking public stances against Green measures, yet cherrypicking the best ones to take credit for. It was a moment that pierced the political bubble and is a format worth hammering on.